Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review ~ "Documentary Editing"

While the video industry provides a constant stream of new and improved production gadgets, cameras and software, little attention is paid to the craft of storytelling. The new eBook, Documentary Editing by Karen Everett makes a welcome contribution to this often ignored area.

Addressing documentary story structure Everett writes: "A story, in the screenwriter’s sense of the word, is not a profile (for example, a film about an eccentric uncle who farms nuts), a condition (human rights abuses in Haiti), a phenomenon (the popularity of multi-player video games), or a point of view (Social Security should be privatized). Robert McKee defines story as 'the great sweep of change that takes life from one condition at the opening to a changed condition at the end.'"

While the book is a useful text in its own right, Documentary Editing might better be referred to as a workbook. Everett leads the reader through a number of exercises to help craft and hone the structure of a documentary story. And since the book is delivered as an Adobe PDF, the reader is able to type directly into the included work forms. The eBook also includes embedded links to a number useful Internet resources.

The book also includes a discussion of the trend of funders to favor of character driven documentaries. This type of film has grown in prominence due in part to the reluctance of funders to underwrite vérité works which rely on the process of discovery to tell stories.

Everett writes: "the dramatic arc of a vérité film, in which life is recorded as it unfolds, is understandably difficult to predict. Filmmaker Fredrick Wiseman probably did not write a detailed, three act treatment for Titticut Follies (1967). Likewise, the Maysles brothers couldn’t have foreseen the dramatic arc of Salesman (1969) before filming. Sadly, these grand experiments in cinema verité would most likely not get funded today."

Documentary Editing also reviews essay style documentaries, three act structure, iring an editor and story consultant as well as producing a trailer. And while the book focuses on story structure, it also details the documentary editing process from logging to rough cut to finished film. Proper and improper cutting techniques are also reviewed.

Documentary Editing is an obvious choice for anyone interested in documentary film production. Here's a link to order the book. Don't miss the opportunity to browse all of the resources available at Karen Everett's web site, New Doc Editing.

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